Vintage "Broadcast Journalism"
by, 09-15-2011 at 04:56 PM (3623 Views)
Y'know I've had a tirade about commentary kicking around my head for a while. Well, here it is.
Imagine a sports commentator. Imagine him in your mind, hearing him speak. Chances are you're imagining someone with a unique voice narrating the action. You're imagining that because that in essence is what sports commentating is. It's a narration of what's going on by a guy who sounds good. Some actual human dialogue set to the action for the purpose of giving it a clarity and flow, as well as a human emphasis on drama, that said action doesn't have otherwise. (ignoring the radio angle) But it can also be used to give human perspective.
So now imagine the colour commentator. do as I say damn you. The #2 man. The guy who gives thoughts, supplies humour, and breaks down what is going on and why. Together these two commentators make a complete and utterly pivotal set. Like a bass and a guitar, they work well together. They don't have to worry about getting in eachother's way like a piano and a guitar, or a guitar and harmonica; they are tried and true roles in commentating that compliment eachother and do what they do well.
And what they do is add life to any sport or event that commentating is a part of. But in "Sports Entertainment" aka. PRO WRESTLING they are even more important. Much like any MC to an event, or any anchorman to a news broadcast, more than just present and narrate what's going on they can smooth over rough spots in the program or cover up mistakes. This is because like a host or news-anchor, they have a general idea of what's going to happen beforehand, and how it's supposed to go.
That's why commentating is not just important for but crucial to pro-wrestling. Without the commentators to parlay what's going on at all times, the cracks in pro-wrestling's facade can start to show. Now you might be going "Well they do anyway". And that brings me to the point of this tirade. I think that due to WWE's desk staff horrendously fucking up their roles, they are doing WWE a disservice and the show is suffering as a result.
There are two main problems that need to be addressed. First and foremost interfering with their ability to do their job is some of the commentators "acting" (if you can call it that). The commentators trying to play a character that they've developed. And the second problem is much simpler, bad/no chemistry. There is a third problem of Booker going nuts at times, ("6 TIME 6 TIME 6 TIME 6 TIME 6 TIME") but he's fun most of the time. And he adds character.
So the acting. Mainly it's just Cole. He's the only one with a gimmicky character. But as Cole is the "VOICE OF THE DUBBLEYOO DUBBLEYOO EEE" his voice is the one heard most often and as a result, a good portion of the commentary is affected. And that's not even considering the fallout that results when the other commentators reply to his shennanigans.
More often than not now, Cole is saying some retarded heely thing or going off on a Booker tirade if Miz or the like is around, and not just doing the play by play of the match. Now, there is the fact that that opens the door for fun banter and trash-talk between the commentators. And that's good too, but not for the whole match, and most definitely not at the expense of the match. After all, at the end of the day, the WWE is still something like 90% wrestling. The product of this is that lately I find myself having trouble concentrating on the match because the commentators are just bantering back and forth. It's like eighth graders not doing the job properly or two different channels for the video and audio. While concentrating on the banter I lose focus on the wrestling and in order to give my full attention to the wrestling I have to tune them out. In this world of short attention spans, that's asking a lot of the viewer. And it's even worse when their banter or ranting causes them to miss a big spot in the match, which sometimes only gets recognized a few seconds too late by Booker going "wow how about that?!".
Another piece of the problem with Cole and his acting is that Cole is currently a heel commentator. Now that works great for a colour commentator but for a guy that's supposed to be describing the action, it is almost impossible to play both roles. As a heel he has to devalue what's going on half of the time, and as a play by play commentator you don't want to be devaluing a damn thing. That said, Cole is very good at what he does and IMO has been balancing things very well. But I do think a change is necessary. Either he needs to stop being a heel or he needs to forget about playing the heel as it comes to most of the action in-ring.
Now I'll talk about that fallout I mentioned. In a nutshell, when Cole says something stupid, and Jerry or Josh or Booker decide to take him up on it, it leads to a giant argument that sometimes will go so far that they have to disarm the situation by going "guys there is match going on". Ok so that's the first problem. The acting is getting in the way and it's got to stop or be reconfigured to a man or role that is less intrusive. So the next problem.
Right now the desk has just lost all damn chemistry. Gorilla Monsoon and Heenan, Monsoon and Lord Alfred Hayes. McMahon and Heenan. All had great chemistry. And before recently, even Cole and Jerry had functional chemistry. But now between Cole's metamorphosis into Miz's brown-noser and them throwing people together all the time with different guys dabbling in the same role at the same time all the chemistry is gone. They don't know how to play off eachother and they more often just make fun of eachother. This is true for every desk from the RAW desk, to the SmackDown desk, to both SuperStars desks. It's stupid and they need some chemistry. So how to fix this crappy situation on commentary?
Firstly I think it was a great idea to bring JR back because he calls the damn match. JR brings energy to the match and that's what you want when pro-wrestling is failing to impress like it used to so much so that they need to bring in a guy like Sin Cara. JR comes off like he cares about what's going on. Maybe he doesn't believe in what goes on in the ring, but he believes in supplying good commentary for it. And that's important. After all if the commentators don't believe in what's going on in the ring how are we supposed to? If wrestling is failing to engage the audience these days, part of the problem is the failure of the commentators to add that extra something to it. May as well watch the show from a seat in the stands, but without the energy of the crowd and arena.
JR could take over play by play completely and Cole can be the heenan. I don't know exactly where this leaves Jerry but at least it's still better than it is. But this will never happen because Cole is a good commentator and when he's not going too far and screwing things up he can show he is very good at what he does. On top of that Vince likes him, and sees him as "the voice", so he isn't going to any supporting role. And I must confess that I prefer Cole's more contemporary voice to JR and used to dislike JR. It's only because of JR's reduced role that his "isms" don't become too much. So it has to be Cole. Cole has to change.
Josh needs to be better. People unanimously seem to like Josh and lately I wonder why. The guy doesn't seem to know what exactly he's doing at times. Just making your voice all loud and grunty when someone hits someone is not good commentary. If so, why even use English at all? Just commentate the matches with a series of grunts and noises. You'd do away with the problem of a spanish announce team. On top of that Josh seems not to know techniques by name (and that's not just him), and he needs to develop a little more resilience to and ability to work off of comments from his peers. And Book needs to tone it down. I'M TALKING BOUT TONE IT TALKING ABOUT TONE IT TONE IT TONE IT TONE IT TONE IT DOWN, COLE!
All that said, there are good things. The commentary staff is unique. When it's not screwing up the wrestling, the dynamic and tension between Cole, JR, with Jerry in the middle is fun when it works. And the same is true with the smackdown desk. And Booker is always a treat, like a biscuit dipped in gravy. Or 6 of them. 6 OF THEM 6 OF THEM 6 OF THEM 6 OF THEM 6 OF THEM... perhaps one is good enough.
Recently on Smackdown there was a match with the Great Khali. Khali is huge. He is an imposing guy. I hadn't heard his new music yet or at least didn't really notice it. (and it's good music.) This was the first time I was seeing his entrance to his new scary music. And what a sight it was. It was something straight out of any movie; the big scary villain coming out. But from the commentators? Not a peep. The whole time they were arguing about something and I don't even remember what it was. That's what's wrong in a nutshell.
I think I'll finish this with one of the most standout moments in my memory from the WWE in 2011. It's not Wrestlemania 27. It's not SummerSlam. It's from RAW. Jerry Lawler took on the Miz for the WWE title in a ladder match. The match was slow. It was boring. But I remember it like the best match ever. The reason being at the very end, a one CM Punk and commentary genius. At the finish of the match when Jerry started to climb the ladder for the title, Punk was going crazy about it and then he did this
".... ... .... ... Jerry Lawler!"
at the time I thought it was bad commentary. But now I have this memory of Jerry The King Lawler doing the impossible. Climbing the ladder against all odds winning his first WWE title after years and years. And the commentator being absolutely in shock and out of words for it. For WWE to be exiciting it's not just having the Rock back, or having guys who look good, or having guys who can wrestle. It's having a commentary team that can sell it.
It needs vintage broadcast journalism. Not Cole's kind.